Since a decade now women have been shattering glass ceilings and stereotypes alike in the logistics and supply chain industry – a workplace generally considered as ‘a man’s domain’. Organisations big and small have been working towards improving gender inclusivity as a part of their ESG goals and the results are pretty evident. In this month’s Cover Story we analyze how the female workforce of the industry has grown on the back of various initiatives, and also take a look at what women in leadership as well as ground-level roles say about their journey in the industry.
In this past decade, the female strata – especially those working in blue collar roles – have managed to rapidly gain entrance into the supply chain & logistics industry, creating for themselves a life of financial independence and stronger social standing.
According to many of World Bank’s researches, Europe and Central Asia are leading the way in bridging the gender gap in the industry with their forward looking initiatives. With new opportunities and partnerships, organisations are trying to not only improve women’s lives, but also help drive talent and bring new perspectives to the sector. It is often said that the complex tasks of planning, organising and precise execution come naturally to women as they are inherent multi-taskers.
As the skillset required by the industry diversifies, there has been an increasing need for an equally diverse workforce, which creates opportunities for women to be a part of this historically ‘made for male’ industry. It is now about people with knowledge, skills and experience, rather than being defined by their gender.
THE NUMBERS ARE INCREASING
Gradually, women have risen above the traditional ‘soft tasks’ like packaging and sorting, to more of operational and technical ones. They are now getting blue collar jobs as never seen before, thanks to ‘de-genderisation’ of roles.
Several supply chain companies have been targeting women-focused initiatives, which is a major step up from the last decade. In developing economies like India, the participation of women in the logistics industry reached the global average of 20% by the end of 2022.
“Diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) has emerged as the crucial element for growth across industries and the logistics and supply chain industry is no exception to that. A shift in perspective regarding how we boost women’s participation in the logistics workforce will act as a force multiplier,” says Indrani Chatterjee, Chief People Officer- Group, Allcargo Group (Gati).
As per reports, in 2021 around 74% of companies were prioritizing DEI while hiring new employees. The paradigm shift that the industry has witnessed in the last decade regarding diversity can be well attributed to the industry’s eye to recognize the importance of having a diverse workforce and their concerted efforts to attract and retain female talent.
Organizations are now, more than ever, empowering women to tap into their strengths and leverage their uniqueness to achieve a more significant impact. And in doing so, the foremost step is providing the right environment.
“Women empowerment is not something that is just spoken about but is happening in almost every sector. Creating the right environment is the key to ensuring women’s participation in the workplace,” says Manju Dhawan, Co-Founder, of Ecom Express Limited.
Efforts like career acceleration programs, flexible working hours, a conducive work environment, immersive infrastructure, and supporting women with required skill training across the logistics industry have led to increased confidence in women.
Bindu Sharma, CFO, FM Logistic India, sharing similar views says, that improved benefits at the warehouse level, like making it more comfortable, hospitable, and safe for females to work and continuous hammering on the diversity issue has brought some change in the mindset of the people and confidence of the females has increased in this industry.
Moreover, the increased awareness among employers about the benefits of a diverse workforce – which includes less aggressiveness, more openness to change, and focus towards the delivery of set goals – has also encouraged the idea of bringing in more females on board.
Also, a growing recognition of the significance of supply chain management in the global economy and the disruptions caused to the functioning of the transportation and logistics sector due to labor shortage, port congestion, and container shortage, during the pandemic has also further encouraged organizations to diversify-creating new opportunities for women to enter the industry.
“Increasing number of women in the logistics industry is the direct result of an ever-growing demand for manpower in warehouses, Pick Processing Centers (PPCs), hubs, and delivery centers among other facilities. The pay-outs have also significantly increased and now attract a large number of people to this sector,” says Manju.
The transportation and logistics industry is changing the perception more and more said Geeta Uppal, Director of Operations – West at Amazon India adding that the industry is now adopting a skillbased approach, rather than a knowledge-based or experience-based approach to its workforce recruitment, and as this change gets acknowledged, having a diverse set of employees becomes inevitable.
Giving us a perfect example of what happened in Canada, Dr. Sharmila H. Amin, Managing Director – South Asia India, Bertling Logistics India Pvt. Ltd shares that increasingly nations in the west have seen labor shortages which have led to the absolute necessity of female participation in the labor force. Canada is a good example as the government has proactively looked to increase female participation in the supply chain labor force, and the picture is not very different in India.
To attract more women to the industry, young women must first be aware of the opportunities available, allowing them to gain the knowledge and hands-on experience needed to weigh their future options. Many manual roles have been automated by new and emerging technologies such as artificial intelligence and robotics, which have opened opportunities. With this and changing workplace, there has never been a better time for women to enter this industry. Kinjal Pande, CEO, DB Schenker
Diversity in the workforce is an absolute necessity, there is no denial to that! How the industry promotes it, is an area that needs our attention. Being an integral part of the logistics industry and more so from the perspective of a female leader, I feel the industry still has some way to go in this aspect. As long as the industry is not seen as a popular choice by the youth, it would be difficult to attract young talent. We also need to make our policies more flexible to attract women who are thinking of restarting their career after a sabbatical. Ayesha Katgara, Head Corporate Strategy, Jeena and Co.
“The use of technology and automation in supply chain management has reduced physical labor and enhanced the use of skill, thus increasing women’s access to the industry,” Rita Verma, Deputy General Manager, Stellar Value Chain Solutions
“The employee journey begins with attracting female candidates as traditionally, the supply chain is a maledominated environment. Sharing our success stories via social media becomes important. Then follows the need to have a fair recruitment process giving up gender bias and ensuring a mix of both male and female candidates. Succession pipelines also need to be reviewed to check if there are enough female candidates,” Sudeshna Sen Sharma, Head of Human Resources, Kuehne+Nagel India, Sri Lanka, and the Maldives
“Promoting Gender equality by providing women with various platforms to develop and groom themselves, recognise them as logistics experts who cover numerous other roles, bringing in transparency about the KRA’s, job description and wages and applying uniform performance evaluation irrespective of the gender.” Sophia Pereira, Director – Customer Service & Customer Solution, DSV Air & Sea
This is an abridged version of the cover story that was published in the March issue of Logistics Insider magazine. To read the complete version, please click here.